If you’ve never built a Gantt Chart you’re definitely interested in a comprehensive Gantt Chart guide. And to do this you either get a dedicated Gantt Chart software or create one in Excel. Both have advantages and disadvantages, which are explained in detail in another article, and it’s up to you to decide which one is best for your projects.
NOTE: If you’re looking for an easy and professional task organizer to use at work, check out this list of best task management software. However, if you’ve already evolved past task management and want more of a timeline than a to-do list planner, a Gantt chart generator is the way.
Before you create your first Gantt Chart, you need to understand how Gantt Charts fit into the larger scheme of Project Management.
There are basically 3 important actions that need to be done before effectively creating the Gantt Chart:
- Create a list of all tasks
- Estimate the duration of each task and who’s responsible
- Think and decide which tasks are independent (or floating) and which depend on other ones
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When you have all this information, you’ll be able to create a network diagram and/or draw the critical path.
Being the longest sequence of tasks in a project that has to be completed to make sure you’re on time, it’s good practice to start drawing the Gantt Chart by putting in the critical path first.
If the project is less complex, it’s easier to identify the critical path and add it directly to the Gantt Chart. However, if the project has many tasks, it’s much better to create a network diagram first and identify the critical path this way. A network diagram is basically a visual representation of all tasks, the duration, and how they relate to each other.
A network diagram for a web design project
In order to identify the critical path, you start from the left and calculate the longest duration of the dependent tasks; in the example above, the critical path is:
If you’ve estimated correctly, you’ll know the minimum required time or how long it will take to complete the project. There are 56 working days in this scenario. Usually, it will take longer to complete the project than your initial estimate. We’ll talk in more detail about this in another article.
NOTE: Time-tracking and timesheets are essential to every successful project. Even more so, project management software in 2022 is multifaceted, offering core features like team scheduling, live reporting, and invoicing. Anyone from creatives (like graphic designers) to consultants can benefit from business invoicing software that’s completely free. Another free option is going for a simple invoice generator.
Now that you have all this information, you can add the tasks to the Gantt Chart software you’re using. It’s best to have the tasks in the critical path on top. It will be easier to follow and make adjustments in the Gantt view. Let’s have a look at the list of tasks:
On top, we placed the tasks in the critical path, due dates, and people responsible for each task. The software will automatically generate the Gantt Chart. All that’s left to do is add the dependencies between tasks. If you use Excel, you’ll have to manually create the chart or use and modify an existing Gantt Chart template.
Note: In order to keep the Gantt Chart simple, we’ve only added dependencies between tasks on the critical path in our example.
Therefore, the Gantt Chart is complete: on the left side is the list of all tasks and their start/end dates. On the right, you can see the timeline, 5 tasks that generate the critical path (along with task dependencies), and 5 tasks that are not on the critical path.
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Laurențiu started his marketing journey over 18 years ago and now leads a marketing team. He has extensive experience in work and project management, and content strategy. When not working, he’s probably playing board games or binge-watching mini-series.